Rabbits predominantly live on a diet of hay in a domestic setting or grass in the wild, along with various other choice bits of greenery mixed in. Some of the choicest foods for rabbits happen to be leafy green vegetables.
All sorts of the so-called salad veggies are good for them, but not quite all of them. How about something like lettuce? Is lettuce okay for them to eat?
Yes, lettuce is just fine for rabbits to eat in most cases. This is a natural food for them and one that is easy for them to digest. However, depending on the variety, lettuce will have more or less nutrients, and they shouldn’t have some kinds of lettuce like iceberg.
Generally speaking, your rabbits will do well with lettuce added to their diet, but it’s always a good idea to mix up the kinds of lettuce they get according to what sort of nutrition they need. Plus, the variety will help keep them from getting bored with a completely “static” menu.
It sounds simple, and it is, but there’s more you need to know so keep reading and I’ll tell you about it…
Do Rabbits Like Lettuce?
Oh, yes. Rabbits love lettuce and naturally live all different kinds. Crisp, fresh tender lettuce leaves are some of their very favorite foods.
Is Lettuce a Healthy Food for Rabbits?
Absolutely, at least in most cases. There are many different kinds of lettuce out there and all the different varieties have different nutritional profiles, but generally all will supply things that rabbits need to thrive and stay healthy.
If you take the time to break down one of the most common and nutritious kinds of lettuce out there, butterhead, we see that it contains a little bit of protein, a little fat and carbohydrates split between dietary fibers and sugars.
In any case, it is a very low-sugar food, and this is ideal for rabbits.
The vitamin and mineral content of butterhead is also surprisingly strong, with plenty of vitamin A and beta carotene, folate, vitamin K and a good complement of the B-complex vitamins including B1, B2, B5 and B6. The vitamins are rounded out by just a little bit of vitamins C and E.
Mineral content is also pretty respectable for a leafy vegetable, and here we’ll find lots of iron and calcium, magnesium and manganese, phosphorus, potassium and zinc.
These are all good things and every last one of them is something that a rabbit needs in its diet. However, most types of lettuce also contain lots of water, with virtually every variety being around 95% water by weight, plus or minus.
Like most very moist foods, excess consumption can cause digestive problems for them.
That’s something I will address in a few sections after we deal with the kinds of lettuce that rabbits, generally, can eat safely.
Can Rabbits Have Romaine Lettuce?
Yes, rabbits can have romaine lettuce and it is generally a good choice for them. It is nutritious, crisp and highly flavorful; they tend to like it. Try to get the darkest varieties that you can, though.
Can Rabbits Have Bibb Lettuce?
Yes, they can. Bibb lettuce is also highly nutritious and flavorful and a favorite of rabbits.
Can Rabbits Have Boston Lettuce?
Yes, Boston lettuce is just fine for rabbits.
Can Rabbits Have Red Lettuce?
They sure can, and red lettuce tends to be particularly nutritious making it a great choice for rabbits. Note that red lettuce and red cabbage should not be confused, but even if you do cabbage is also safe for them to eat.
Can Rabbits Have Butterhead Lettuce?
Yes, they sure can. The example lettuce I used to talk about the nutritional content up above is a great choice for them because it is so nutritious.
Can Rabbits Have Arugula Lettuce?
Yes, arugula is a safe choice for rabbits and is highly flavorful and packed with vitamins and minerals. They don’t seem to mind that slightly peppery taste in the least.
Can Rabbits Have Cress Lettuce?
Yes, they can. Cress lettuce is safe for rabbits to eat.
Can Rabbits Have Iceberg Lettuce?
No, it isn’t recommended. Aside from being very deficient in vitamins and minerals, iceberg lettuce also contains a compound, lactucarium, which is a natural sedative and dangerous for rabbits in high concentrations.
More practically speaking, the lack of nutrition and the high-water content of iceberg lettuce mean it’s a loser for them as supplemental food.
Can Lettuce Cause Problems for Rabbits?
Yes, but assuming you’re feeding them a safe variety of, the only problems are likely to arise from a dietary imbalance or from giving them too much lettuce in one sitting or feeding it to them too often.
Around 85% of a rabbit’s calories should come from hay or grass, with the remainder being made up of leafy vegetables like lettuce and also some other choice inclusions thrown in.
Assuming you’re maintaining this ratio and not giving them anything that is overtly harmful, you shouldn’t expect problems.
Problems arise when they get too much less because it will start to disrupt their digestive tract a little bit. Usually, this is more due to the water content than any serious imbalance of vitamins or minerals, and presents as loose stools or diarrhea.
Sometimes excess consumption of lettuce can result in gas which, when caused by lettuce, is rarely highly problematic but it can be painful for rabbits. Severe accumulation of gas can be fatal, however.
And then the other problem is that if rabbits fill up on lettuce, even in the short term, they are missing out on other foods that they need more in order to thrive.
For these reasons, you should stick to a strict schedule when feeding your bunnies lettuce as part of a complete diet. Do that and there won’t be any issues…
How Often Should Rabbits Eat Lettuce?
Rabbits can have lettuce daily but with a few prerequisites. You only want to give them the prescribed amount according to the formula I will give you just below, and you should vary the types of lettuce that they get periodically to ensure they’re getting complete nutrition and avoiding boredom.
As for serving size, rabbits should have one packed cup of leafy greens per 2 pounds of body weight. Note that this is in addition to their hay.
As an example, if you have a rabbit that weighs 6 pounds it should be getting three cups of lettuce and other leafy vegetables.
However, the onus is always on you to keep an eye on your rabbit if they start to suffer from an upset stomach.
It is good to start lower than that amount and then work your way up over several feedings to make sure they are handling it okay. Back off if there seems to be a problem or if a particular kind of lettuce doesn’t agree with them.
The Best Way to Serve Lettuce to Rabbits
I like to give lettuce to my rabbits torn or cut up into smaller pieces that make measuring precise portions easier. Yes it’s fun to watch rabbits send a large leaf of lettuce down the hatch in one go, but it’s better to slow them down a little bit and keep a close eye on their portion size.
Also, make sure you thoroughly wash any lettuce that you’re going to feed them and fully dry it before serving.
Never Give Rabbits Spoiled Lettuce
If you’ve got any lettuce that is starting to rot, show signs of mold or turn into that brown, slimy nastiness you just need to throw it away. Don’t try and give it to your rabbits to save a couple of dollars on lettuce. They are garbage disposals and you shouldn’t treat them like that.
If you haven’t learned by now, you had better learn quick: rabbits have highly sensitive digestive systems that are easily upset by bad food of all kinds, including rotting produce. They, just like people, can come down with all sorts of foodborne illnesses in addition.
If you wouldn’t feel comfortable making a big dinner salad from a given head of lettuce, don’t even dream of giving it to your poor rabbits.
Is Lettuce Safe for Bunnies, Too?
Yes, lettuce is safe for bunnies once they are old enough to start eating other foods, around 3 months of age at the earliest. Make sure you reduce the portion sizes somewhat to account for their ongoing development.
Tom has lived and worked on farms and homesteads from the Carolinas to Kentucky and beyond. He is passionate about helping people prepare for tough times by embracing lifestyles of self-sufficiency.